Bewilderment. Confusion. Despair. This is how I felt the days after the election. To be clear, I wasn’t grieving because a Republican was elected President. John Kasich or Mitt Romney would have been good choices. I was upset because Donald Trump was elected President, given the person he is and the campaign he ran. I had a hard time getting out of bed the first few days after and kept hoping it was all a bad dream.
Like most grieving processes, the sadness gave way to anger which gave way to looking for the positive in all of this.
There will be plenty of analyses written about why Hillary lost and how the pollsters got it so very wrong. Some of my theories and observations:
I don’t believe the country is ready for a female president. With a young daughter at home, it pains me to say that, but sexism played a role in this election. In my conversations in Florida the last weekend before the election, and making calls for the Hillary campaign in the final days, I noticed that women weren’t standing up for Hillary the way I expected, and certainly nowhere near how African Americans supported Obama eight years ago. This gender issue was further magnified by Donald Trump’s public mistreatment and denigration of women. I believe this was a major factor in the election with a large swath of male voters unwilling to support a woman for president and, sadly, a significant chunk of women agreeing. This influence is hard to measure and easily obscured in polls because humans are unlikely to admit this bias, but according to the polls, 53% of white women supported Trump. I suspect the real number is even higher.
Deep-Seated Racism / Xenophobia.
Given the recent civil rights struggles we’ve seen in the country, it’s hard to ignore the factor that racism played in the election. I believe most of it isn’t anything new, but unresolved issues that have been sitting just below the surface. The Obama Presidency, combined with the rise of social media, brought them to the surface. Donald Trump’s message of division and his acceptance of support from groups like the KKK and Alt-Right reinforced support of him by these groups and their likeminded brethren. Whether Trump actually shares these views remains to be seen, but by giving a wink and a nod, he empowered them. Similarly, the demographics of the country are changing and Donald Trump appealed to voters' worst fears. Ideas of building walls and rejecting people based on religion obviously resonated with voters in the country. This is sad.
FBI Director Comey had a real impact on the election. 11 days before election day, he broke from longstanding justice department policy, and took the wind out of the Clinton campaign sails by re-introducing the trust question around Hillary. We now know there was nothing worth announcing so this amounts to a grave injustice by the very guy in charge of justice! This was a momentum-killer for the campaign and enough to sway the small margin of victory for Trump. The American people were wrongfully manipulated and should be angry.
As a conservative friend characterized it to me, "Trump is a bad person with good policies". Most of all, I’m disappointed for the message this sends our kids. A friend sent me a note the morning after saying his son asked him on the way to school: “Dad, how can Donald Trump be our President when Donald Trump is mean to people?” The values that Donald Trump exudes professionally through his long record of business dealings and personally with his mis-treatment of women and name-calling are horrible examples for our children. Whether you agree or disagree with Obama’s policies, he’s a good person and a role model for our kids. I’m surprised Americans were willing to accept so much less.
Moving forward, there are rays of sunshine that I now see coming from this election. The election has made me more engaged politically. Today, I read up on TPP and studied the Trump campaign platform in a way I hadn’t before. This NPR article summarizes his priorities over the fist 100 days. Some of Trump's ideas are good. Congressional term limits is a great idea in my opinion and would go far to eliminate career politicians and some of the conflicts of interest that arise from them. A five-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after serving is an interesting idea for the same reasons. Of course, many of his policies seem ill advised to me, most significantly, any infringement of women’s rights and environmental protection, but I’m open-minded to seeing what he can accomplish with a fresh perspective in office.
My concern for President Trump is that he reneges on the crux of his campaign platform before his presidency even begins. He ran as an anti-establishment Washington outsider who was going to shake up the office of President and get things done. Within three days of the election, he moved Mike Pence to lead the transition team and a vast majority of the people considered on the short list for cabinet positions are Washington insiders. This list might look similar if any of the Republican primary contenders had won. There’s a chance that Trump will quickly tire of the complexity and nuance required to be an effective president. If that happens, you could see a narrative that looked something like… he'll spend less time in Washington than any president in the modern history, he'll delegate and outsource his presidency more than any recent president has done, Mike Pence will get enormous power and Trump's anti-establishment promises of "draining the swamp” will largely be forgotten. Given the person I think Trump is, I worry about this. If this were to happen, I think the far right could do real harm to the country leading to social unrest, among other problems.
The other possibility, and the one I hope will transpire for the sake of our country, is that the office of President humbles Trump into decency, and the master deal-maker he aspires to be comes out front and center. Piers Morgan lays out that possibility in this article here. The other reason I hope this to be the direction things go is that I believe Trump is relatively progressive on social issues and that influence will be critical to counter-balance the conservatives clamoring for power and influence in his administration. Climate experts say there may be no turning back if temperatures rise another 3-4 degrees. Even if there’s a differing opinion out there, the stakes seem too high to take the risk. Similarly, we’ve made great strides in this country for equal rights for women and minorities and it would be a shame for us to lose any ground on this important hallmark of our democracy. I hope the anti-establishment original thinker that Trump claimed to be during the election cycle is something he lives up to while President.